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How to study the Bible -Who does John the Baptist say Jesus is in John 1:15 – 17?

Updated on January 27, 2014

How to study the Bible

We have now met the three main characters in chapter one of John. I hope you have found these character studies interesting and informative. First there was the Apostle John and the author of the book. We saw him as a bold fisherman who wasn’t afraid of controversy. Next we were introduced to Logos, identified as Jesus Christ. We saw how John took two vastly different views of Logos and combined them into a shocking truth. Finally, we met John the Baptist, an Old Testament prophet in a New Testament world, the subject of prophesy himself. He was a witness preparing the people for their Messiah. Knowing about the main characters adds depth to the text, but if we want the Bible to change our lives, we should look at ways to apply it to our own personal circumstances. It is good to start by praying and asking God to show us what He wants us to learn. Then we can look at the lives of the people we are reading about and compare them to our own. Look for similarities or differences that we can relate to. Are there lessons to be learned or examples to follow? The power of God’s word can be demonstrated in our own lives as we allow Him to change our hearts.

Before we dive into the next section, I suggest going back and reading the whole chapter through from the beginning. This will give you a grasp of where we are as we look at each of the next few verses individually.

John 1:15 – “John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”

This is an interesting verse. Take a minute to think, “What does this say?”, “What does this mean?”, and “What does this mean to me?”

From reading the previous verses, we know that it is John the Baptist who is testifying. We also know that John is talking about the Word, which is Jesus Christ. Now look at his testimony about Jesus. We learn three things.

1. Jesus came after John

2. Jesus is greater than John

3. Jesus was before John

Luke chapter one tells the story of John’s birth and the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. From this account we see that John is about 6 months older than Jesus. This is why he would say that Jesus came after him. The reason John gives to prove that Jesus is greater, is that Jesus was before him. The conclusion that I get from this statement is that Jesus existed before his own physical birth here on earth. He existed before John was born or even conceived. Jesus will later claim to exist before Abraham was born (John 8:58) and even before the creation of the world. (John 17:24) In fact, in Hebrews, we learn that Jesus has no beginning at all (Hebrews 7:3). This means that Jesus is Eternal, he has always been, and always will be. He knows everything that has ever happened. He has seen a bigger picture of the world than I will know in my lifetime. He is not some new guy on the scene, experimenting with my life to see what works. I am but a small blip on the radar of time, yet he cares for me. I can trust him to be there, and to know what’s best.

Let’s look at the next two verses together:

John 1:16, 17 – “From the fullness of his grace, we have received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”

Again, stop and ask yourself, “what does this say, mean and mean to me?

Webster defines grace as - “the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor, disposition to benefit or serve another, the divine favor towards man, the mercy of God as distinguished from his justice.”

Jesus’ life exemplifies grace. He showed his great love by dying on the cross for us, his kindness by walking among us, and his mercy in taking our punishment. His love for us is a blessing. His sacrifice for us is a blessing. His purpose for us is a blessing. His grace and truth are blessings. The Jews lived under the law. They thought they had to work at keeping every part of the law in order to earn God’s favor and forgiveness. God had given the law to Moses after the Israelites left their captivity in Egypt. It was the code they lived by. The penalty for breaking any part of the law was death. This is why they sacrificed animals, to pay the cost of their sins. They believed if they could keep all the commandments to perfection they would please God. They missed the point. It is impossible for any human to keep the whole law. The real purpose of the law was to show us that we are all sinners and need God’s grace for salvation (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:24). Jesus came to fulfill that law. He set them (and us) free from the burden of perfection they imposed upon themselves. Because of His death on the cross, our sins are forgiven. This is a huge blessing. This means that I don’t have to be perfect in order to win God’s favor. He loves me unconditionally regardless of how much or how badly I mess up. It takes a lot of stress and pressure off of me to do everything just right. It allows me to live to the best of my ability and leave the outcome of my work in his hands.

Hopefully you found this useful. For a lighter look at the next verse, John 1:18 you can read my short story, Ms. Charlotte by the Sea. Thank you!

Here are the verses I referred to above

John 8:57,58 - "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

John 17:24 - "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."

Hebrews 7:3 - (comparing Melchizedek to Christ)"Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever."

Romans 3:20 - "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

Galatians 3:24 - "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."


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